Colonial Period; Of Indians, Heroes, and Spies


Colonial era: In the 17th century, our general area was inhabited by the Wappinger Tribe of Indians. Their Sachem bore the English name of Daniel Nimham. On Route 301, just east of the firehouse, is Nimham Road leading to Mount Nimham.

In these early colonial years, most of the families that came to the area from Europe were Dutch settlers. They named the area Duchess County. One of the most influential of these was the Phillipse family. In the early 18th century, the Phillipses became embroiled in a law suit and counter-suit with the Wappingers, who claimed that they had been wrongfully denied ownership of certain lands in this area.

As the story goes, two young Dutchmen named Lambert Dorlandt and Jan Sybrante sold to the Phillipses a large tract of land they claimed to have purchased from the Wappingers. This sort of thing — the dubious representation of land purchases from indigenous Indian tribes — was frequent. To intercept fraudulent land purchase schemes, colonial law required the prior issuance of a license by the colonial governor for such transactions. Dorlandt and Sybrante had received no such license.

During the French and Indian War, a fair number of the Wappingers moved north with their families to the vicinity of what is now Stockbridge, Massachusetts. When the war ended, they returned to their homeland only to find much of it rented by the Phillipses to tenant farmers. The Indians sought to reoccupy these lands. The local courts were unhelpful and the Phillipse family appealed to the High Court of Chancery.

The Wappingers contended that since the original transfer had not been sanctioned by the colonial governor, the sale to the Phillipses was invalid. It is said that those representing the Phillipses submitted to the court a forged document with signatures from eight Indian chieftains conveying the Wappinger title to Adolph Phillipse. The court agreed with the claim of the Phillipse family. Subsequently, Daniel Nimham appealed to the English Crown, but that effort also failed. Nimham, himself, died in 1778 fighting with colonists in the Revolutionary War. To this day deeds to property in Putnam County contain a provision reserving to the heirs of Phillipse’s mineral rights in the subject property. Check your deed.

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